Andy Cancel’s plans to move back to Chicago for a new job were upset when Hurricane Maria struck his home in Puerto Rico. A resident and Army Reservist on that island, he was called up for duty in the days following the disaster, leaving behind his wife and two sons in their damaged home and forgoing a job opportunity in Chicago. Facing flooded and mud-choked roads, Andy spent days hiking with his unit to remote and isolated villages in Puerto Rico’s mountains, bringing much needed and greatly appreciated supplies. At one point, he was ordered to Yauco, the town he and his family had left for Chicago when he was two, to clear debris from a local bridge by hand when a bulldozer was unable to penetrate the thick mud.

After nearly three months of reservist duty related to the storm, Andy traveled alone to Chicago even though he knew his job opportunity was no longer available. His second day back in Chicago, he was contacted by a cousin who was a long-term employee of People’s Gas. He told Andy that he had arranged an interview opportunity to join the Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP), a training program at City Colleges of Chicago’s (CCC) Kennedy-King College (KKC)/Dawson Technical Institute, which, upon successful completion, leads to a job with the utility company.

UMAP is a six-month training-to-placement program with the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 18077 and Peoples Gas. Developed in 2011, the partnership with CCC has already trained and placed over 450 military veterans and is set to begin its 20th class of trainees.

With the assistance of KKC’s Veterans Services Center and the staff of UMAP, Andy has been able to settle his family in Chicago while working towards an associate degree through City Colleges. In the meantime, he finishes his UMAP program in July 2018 and he will be starting his one-month paid internship with People’s Gas later that month. After the internship, Andy will start full-time as a gas utility worker with the company. His main duties will be installing, repairing and maintaining mechanical regulating and controlling devices, which include electric meters, gas regulators, thermostats, and safety and flow valves. Andy will also make service calls to residences and businesses that operate with natural gas.

He regularly voices his appreciation for the unexpected path to a new life and new career, finding a bright future on the other side of catastrophe.

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